Libyan forces fight for control of Gaddafi stronghold

2011-09-24 13:15

Libyan provisional government forces backed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) warplanes stormed Sirte, one of Muammar Gaddafi’s last strongholds, today but came under heavy sniper fire.

Black smoke billowed over the town as National Transitional Council forces massed in Zafran Square about a kilometre from its centre. Gunfire could be heard from the town centre as fighters moved tanks and mortars into the square.

Bakkies mounted with machineguns and loaded with National Transitional Council fighters raced into the town. Forces also advanced from the south of Sirte, the deposed leader’s hometown.

“They have snipers above the mosques, above the buildings. They’re using the houses and public buildings,” National Transitional Council fighter El-Tohamy Abuzein told Reuters from his position on a roundabout in Zafran Square.

Nato would not comment on its operations in Sirte today.

Several fighters said they had orders to hold back on an advance on the town centre because of the possibility of Nato attacks.

A large cloud of smoke over the town was the result of a strike on an ammunition dump, fighters said.

At the western gate, gunners fired artillery towards the town. Both sides exchanged volleys of rockets.

National Transitional Council forces previously retreated from Sirte and the other final Gaddafi stronghold, Bani Walid, after poorly organised assaults met fierce resistance from loyalists. 

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